How to Cultivate a Sense of Perspective

There are so many challenges when it comes to losing and/or maintaining weight.

For those of us who struggle to the point where we might be considered “eating disordered” – it’s especially challenging. Whether it’s obsessive thinking about food, binge-eating, bulimia, anorexia or even orthorexia, we can all be helped by cultivating a sense of perspective. This doesn’t replace professional methods, of course, and there’s more to eating disorders than pure psychology. There is habit, there is environment, there might even be underlying genetic risk factors.

But no matter how or why you’re struggling, cultivating a  sense of perspective won’t hurt you and may even help you.

By a Sense of Perspective, I mean Three Things

  1. The understanding that you are precious, that every day is precious, and that YOU are more important than your problems.
  2. The understanding that what you’re facing is VERY common. Probably much more common than you think. The understanding that it’s not your fault and that you’re probably pre-disposed to it in some way.
  3. The understanding that your time is limited, and that there is so much for you to be doing here on this earth than wasting your time suffering.

Why Cultivate a Sense of Perspective

Because a sense of perspective puts space between you and your problems.  And space makes you powerful, because it helps you make logical decisions rather than emotional ones.

How to Cultivate a Sense of Perspective

God, if I only knew!

I’m not an expert on this, just someone who struggles with this and who seems to being doing better lately. But here is what I think.

  1. A sense of perspective tends to naturally come with age. You can’t rush this, but you can allow it to happen and surrender to it. And if you’re younger, you can understand that what seems important now (to the point of torturing you) might not seem so important later. And have faith in that.
  2. Spend time stimulating your brain! Filling your brain up with things gives it less time and energy to torture you.  This leads you to a sense of perspective. I’d recommend a hobby where you can track your progress. Something that challenges you, but is within your skill set. Even if you don’t like it at first, you might grow to like it.
  3. Travel (same reason as number two)
  4. Spend time in nature (same reason as number two).
  5. Read biographies. Learning about the struggles that many successful people faced gives you a sense of perspective. Everyone struggles. EVERYONE. And sometimes those struggles account for their greatness.

These are just a few thoughts.  There are so many others, and I’m always open to more thoughts.

When I feel like I’m going insane about anything (which I often too), I remind myself to have a sense of perspective. These problems, they are not that important – no matter how important they seem.

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Dream Big, Plan Small

Sandwich with avocado and poached egg

Regardless of how you plan to get into shape, there is one psychological trick that I believe will be helpful to most.  You have to dream big, and you have to plan small. 

By dream big, I’m referring to your ultimate goal. Visualize it, taste it.  It can and will be yours, no matter how far away it seems right now.

You don’t have to write it down, you don’t have to meditate on it.  In fact, now it’s time to  (for the most part) throw it away. Because it doesn’t matter how big your dream is if you aren’t able to break it down into smaller parts.

By plan small, I don’t mean anything specific. But here is the general idea. Imagine that your “dream big” goal is to lose 50 pounds. Realistically, you think you can do that in 5-6 months. Assuming you’re starting in November, you should safely be able to hit that goal by May (losing 8 – 10 pounds a month).

Now – imagine yourself in the springtime, 50 pounds lighter and feeling so free. Wonderful! But in order to get there, realize that right now, 40 of those 50 pounds don’t matter. What matters is that you lost the first 10 pounds. The prospect of losing 10 pounds is much less daunting than the prospect of spending the next 5 months trying to lose a total of 50. So the last step is to forget the rest, and plan small.

Your “plan small” goal is now to lose 8 – 10 pounds in the month of November.  How are you going to do that? I don’t know. There are a million different ways. But here are a few tips that might be helpful:

It might be a good idea to plan even smaller. Forget 8-10 pounds this November, how about 2 pounds this week?  How about .3 pounds today?

One Small Caveat

Planning small is great, with one caveat.  The smaller you plan, the more you need to realize that fluctuations will happen while still losing fat. This is especially true for females as we go through our cycle.

If your goal is to lose two pounds a week, realize that you might do everything you can but still not lose those two pounds in any particular week. Assuming you are doing everything right, you might lose 1 pound one week, and 4 pounds in another.  This is the nature of attempting to measure fat by  using weight – it’s far from perfect. So you have to be sufficiently psychologically healthy that you will survive apparent disappointments (which really, are not disappointments at all).

My Method

When I first decided to lose weight, I printed out a blank calendar for a period of one month. I subtracted 10 pounds from my starting weight, and wrote in that new weight on the last day of the month. I knew I had 60+ pounds to lose, but unlike any of my previous efforts, I decided to just focus to the here and now.

In order to reach 10 pounds by the end of the month, I’d have to lose 2.5 pounds a week.  So I subtracted 2.5 pounds from my current weight, and wrote it in on the last day of the first week. I then subtracted 2.5 pounds from that weight, and wrote it in on the last day of the second week. I did this one more time, and voila – I now have 4 weeks and 4 goals.

I realize that 2.5 pounds is a lot of weight to lose consistently week after week, but because this was my first month – I figured I’d be losing a lot of water. I decided that even if I only lost 8 pounds by the end of the month, I’d consider it a huge success. In fact, any weight loss would put me in a better position than I’d been in at the beginning of the month.

In any event, I’d now start out on my first week, not thinking about the three weeks to come. My only goal this week is to lose 2.5 pounds.  When I reach the end of the first week, I’d write my new weight down.  If I lost exactly 2.5 pounds, I’d leave my goals as is. If I lost less, I’d adjust my goals to only 2 pounds per week. If I lost more, I would adjust my goals so that they reflect 2.5 pounds per week starting from my new weight (but still only until the end of the month).  Even if I gained weight, my new weekly goal is just to lose 2.5 from my new weight.

The effect is that no matter what, my goal is always “lose 2.5 pounds (or 2 pounds) this week.” The month is not important, and the goal re-sets each week.

Here is what I found. Three out of four times, I met or exceeded my weekly goal. Usually about once a month, I lost slightly less than my goal, and very rarely I gained.

Over time, this method worked for me.  My mind is overcrowded, and I’m sure yours is too. We want to fast forward to the future, but things just seem to work out better when we try our best to focus on the here and now.

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I Want to See You MOVE!

I am going for the “NOW” music effect here… soon I will have 4893582958520535 playlists for you to choose from. We are so close to the weekend, maybe if we run fast enough, we can get there quicker.

Work out mix #2

  • Rudimental (feat. Ed Sheeran): Lay It All on Me
  • Inna (feat. Pitbull): Good Time
  • Zedd (feat. Selena Gomez): I Want You to Know
  • Chris Brown: Don’t Wake Me Up
  • KSHMR: Burn
  • Years & Years: King
  • Inna (feat. J Balvin): Cola Song
  • Edward Maya: Stereo Love
  • Bob Sinclar: World, Hold On
  • Florence + The Machine: Shake It Out (I think this is a good cool down/stretching song)

 

Happy running, lifting, cycling, flipping tires!

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Serge (hubby) is so manly and strong. GRRR!

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